Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

The Sacred Void
Spatial Images of Work and Ritual among the Giriama of Kenya

$43.99 (C)

Part of Cambridge Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology

  • Date Published: March 2006
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521024983

$ 43.99 (C)

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Hardback, eBook

Looking for an examination copy?

This title is not currently available for examination. However, if you are interested in the title for your course we can consider offering an examination copy. To register your interest please contact providing details of the course you are teaching.

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • In this innovative study, David Parkin shows how indigenous African rites and beliefs may be reworked to accommodate a variety of economic systems, new spatial and ecological relations among communities, and the locally variable influences of Islam and Christianity. The Giriama people of Kenya include pastoralists living in the hinterland; farmers, who work land closer to the coast; and migrants, who earn money as laborers or fisherman on the coast itself. Wherever they live, they revere an ancient and formerly fortified capital, located in the pastoralist hinterland, which few of them ever see or visit. It is the site of occasional large-scale ceremonies and becomes especially important at times of national crisis. It then acts as a moral core of Giriama society, and a symbolic defense against total domination and assimilation.

    • David Parkin is professor of African anthropology at SOAS and probably the leading African ethnographer in the UK. He is widely respected for his long record of East African ethnography
    • Important, innovative study on the big theme of ritual
    • Parkin moves away from the idea that ritual simply unites a society showing how it provides a geographical map of sacred places around which people organize their minds and give meaning to their daily lives
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    "On one level it is a significant contribution to anthropological theory....It is, at the same time, an historical case study of relationships between meanings of ethnic identity and territory amidst a sea of social change....Parkin's work here is representative of the best in current historically oriented ethnography." Ethnohistory

    "David Parkin's book on the Giriama of Kenya combines conceptual finesse and stylistic elegance with a sensitivity for issues in religious studies rare among anthropologists...Parkin keeps the reader reeling between keen insights and a wealth of well-organized ethnographic data. The result is a rare and important work that offers common ground for scholars of religion(s) and anthropologists." The Journal of Religion

    "Parkin's study is both ambitious and extremely informative." American Anthropologist

    "Parkin portrays, with notable sensitivity, Giriama ambivalence with regard to the newer ideas and practices available on the coast, and, in particular, the combination of Islam, divination, and egalitarian authority." --Choice

    "As one would expect of its author, the book is lucidly written, comprising a coherent essay from start to finish." The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology

    "Parkin provides us with an insightful contribution to the anthropology of knowledge and one well-developed answer to the question, What is the nature of a specific culture?" Frederick C. Gamst, The International Journal of African Historical Studies

    "This is a fine ethnographic account of an African people. Superb in its detail, and original and insightful in interpretation, it brings to life the thoughts, fears, and perceptions of the Giriama people and provides a sophisticated model of a complex society that has great value for comparative understanding of African and other societies...David Parkin offers a deep analytical understanding of what is actually happening in Giriama society, both in their eyes and in his own...This is an unusual, and indeed rare, book of sensitivity and ethnographic writing." John Middleton, Journal of Ritual Studies

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2006
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521024983
    • length: 284 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 150 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.43kg
    • contains: 5 b/w illus. 2 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Fantasies of the West
    2. Western Kaya, sacred centre
    3. View from the west: cattle and co-operation
    4. From west to east: the works of marriage
    5. Spanning west and east: dances of death
    6. Alternative authorities: incest and fertility
    7. Alternative selves: invasions and cure
    8. Coastal desires and the person as centre

  • Author

    David Parkin, University of London

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×
warning icon

Turn stock notifications on?

You must be signed in to your Cambridge account to turn product stock notifications on or off.

Sign in Create a Cambridge account arrow icon

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.